Couple hugging
Couple hugging

When you think back to all the fun and the best times of your life, you likely think of times you shared with family, friends, and relationships most close to you. Arguably, relationships are the most important thing in life, yet it’s easy to get so caught up in the grind and day to day expectations of life. Then one day, you wake up and think about how many great opportunities you may have missed by being so busy. One of the most amazing things about people is building real, emotional connections with others. Whether it’s your friends, your family, or someone you love, an emotional connection can make your heart sing. It can break you from your routine, and it can put a big, cheesy grin on your face. In this digital, fast-paced world, it’s easy to get isolated--to forget the importance of real, interactive connection. No--not just meeting up with someone on Skype, or sending them an email, or even sending them a text--I mean a face-to-face, real-life, sit-down-and-have-coffee connection. Whether in business or in your home life, successful, personal relationships run the world. Just think about a connection you have with someone that lead to a job opportunity. Or a connection you felt with someone in the bar, but you didn’t make a move. Or the connection you had with the person who found your lost dog, and how you felt when they brought him back home. Everyday, these connections make the world go round.

Learning how to build an emotional connection is a skill. When you were a child, it probably came naturally to you. But as we become adults, we get stuck in our ways, we learn to isolate ourselves, and soon we start to wonder, "how do I build an emotional connection?"

It’s not that difficult. In fact, you already know. You just have to freshen up on your people skills. Learning how to build connections will help you in ALL facets of life: from your job, to your home life, to your love life, to your friendships.

Here are five ways to connect with anyone:

1. Learn to Listen People are so used to talking about themselves. Me, me, me. I, I, I. But if you stop and listen to someone, just honestly listen and give feedback when necessary, you will be surprised the connection that will form. Instead of diving into a conversation about yourself, open the conversation up to your date (or your boss, or your friend) and ask them to share something about themselves.

Depending on how well you know the person, you can start with simple questions like, “What were you like in high school?” To more deeper questions like, “What was the scariest moment of your life?” Listening is an art. You must be truly prepared to give your attention to the other person. Put yourself in their shoes and allow them to fully express themselves. It’s a sure way to begin building an emotional connection.

2. Get Back on the Horse Sometimes we try to build an emotional connection and we fail. It doesn’t work like we hoped. One person has a wall up, while the other person is emotionally available. Othertimes, we get our hearts hurt by rejection or the ending of a relationship, friendship, or work partnership. That’s ok! It’s fine to hurt.

Hurt as much as you like, cry or get angry about it. But in your own time, don’t forget to get back on the horse. The way to connect with someone, create new friendships, forge new relationships, is to just keep practicing.

You’ll never know if there is someone amazing out there if you continue to isolate yourself. Go out, get involved in the community, participate in after work activities with your co-workers, join a sports league, do whatever you can to get back on the horse.

3. Be GenuineBeing your true, authentic self, means leaving your mask at home. You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not and most people can see right through your disguise. Notice your behavior.

Are you overly arrogant or cocky, are you wearing too much make up, are you constantly sitting with your arms crossed, never letting anyone in. If you appear to have a guard up (through your attitude, your face paint, or your body language), you might as well have a neon sign over your head that says, “ Do NOT approach me.”

People can always read genuine. They are more likely to engage and talk to genuine people. So If you see yourself straying from being yourself, stop and try to get back to who you really are.

4. Avoid Judgement and TMIWhen you first meet someone, speak to them as you would speak to the Queen or the President, with respect and dignity. Topics like religion or politics are off the table until you know where someone stands.

Do not make any brash opinionated comments about how much you “hate” something; for all you know, the person you are talking to might love the thing you just said you hated.

Avoid anything you wouldn’t talk to your grandmother about. Keep the conversation PG-13. No sexual or bathroom topics allowed. Emotional connections are built on trust and getting to know the person.

While some topics are fair game for your buddies (who have known you for 10 years), new people in your life don’t know you, and thus you should present your most well-kept, top-notch self.

5. Let Your Guard DownIt’s alright to have a little guard up around your heart. Everybody does. But at some point, if you are trying to create an emotional connection with someone, the guard has to come down. If you go through life shutting everyone out, you will never know what it feels like to be loved. Giving and receiving love, attention, affection, admiration, are all important parts of the human experience. Try to think back on a time when you were emotionally invested, when your heart was open and you were happy and content. Guess what? You can be that way today.

Start slowly by thinking back to why your guard went up in the first place. Little by little you can start to break down that wall. When you let other’s in, you will be amazed by how happy -- and emotionally connected-- you will really feel.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  -Maya Angelou